We’ve come to the 3rd Major of the 2012 PGA Tour season, the halfway point if you will. This year’s Open Championship promises to be full of high caliber play, problems with deep bunkers, wind, rain, and whatever else northwest England has to offer. This year’s championship will be played at The Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s Golf Club in Northwest England. As with every Open Championship, this course promises to play tougher than the pro’s expected. Which is why it’ll take everything these professionals have in their bags to pull out a win. Various shot shapes, accuracy off the tee, and stellar putting to hoist the coveted Claret Jug.
Royal Lytham is 205 pot bunkers strewn across a links layout. Ball placement will be key off the tees this week in order to shoot a good score. With the winds whipping in from the ocean and dunes, missing the various, yet well placed, bunkers will be the challenge with this course. Like many other Open Championships played in England and Scotland, the winds are unpredictable and can change in an instant. Usually the players expect winds to be in the 20-30MPH range and swirling during the course of their rounds, so that’s where keeping the ball low, and electing to either ride the wind or fight the wind will be essential to scoring well. The greens are large and have extreme slopes and breaks when it comes to putting, and generally if a player tries to go right at a pin, the ball will skip past the hole, off the green and leave a tough pitch shot to save par. Now, with that said, this week has presented different problems for the players. There has been little wind, down-pouring rain, and thick rough instead of wispy blades of grass that usually accompany a British Open. According to various players, this course is set up more like a U.S. Open Championship rather than a British Open. So, the scoring should be interesting if a player finds himself in the thick rough.
The last time this tournament was played at Royal Lytham & St, Anne’s in 2001, David Duval claimed victory and since then has not been the golfer he once promised to be. That said, our old friend Tiger Woods hasn’t won a British Open since 2006, and seems poised to once again raise the Claret Jug in victory. He is much more confident in his swing; he’s playing better golf all around, and says that the British Open is his favorite major. Tiger also has history at this particular course. He was low amateur in 1996 before he turned pro, and won that by shooting a Friday round of 66 back then. Now, he’s a different player now then he was back then, but golfers tend to have great memories of courses they enjoy. When he won at Turnberry in 2006, he only hit his driver once in four rounds of play, generally using an iron off the tee to keep the ball in play and avoid bunkers. This course sets up similarly to Turnberry, so I expect Tiger to use more irons and three woods off the tee, shaping the ball to avoid bunkers and rough patches. He’s my pick to win this week, although don’t count out the Englishmen in the field. Lee Westwood, who is still looking for his first major, Justin Rose, and the current number 1 in the world, Luke Donald. Rose has played unbelievably consistent over the past weeks and looks like he will quietly make a run for the Claret Jug. Luke Donald however has faltered in recent majors, and seems a little out of sorts when it comes to being in big spots in big tournaments.
All will be settled on Sunday afternoon when the winner takes the coveted Claret Jug and places it over his head capturing the 2012 British Open. Side note, England is 5 hours ahead and the first tee times on Thursday will be at 4:30AM on ESPN. I will be up watching from beginning to end…and that’s what makes me crazy.